Author's Note: New fandom, and boy, am I excited. Love and chocolate bars to my fantastic beta and supa BFF, Eltea, who also happens to be the one who supplied me with Death Note in the first place.
Well, I'm not paralyzed
But I seem to be struck by you
I wanna make you move
Because you're standing still
If your body matches what your eyes can do
You'll prob'ly move right through
Me on my way to you
– "Paralyzer" – Finger Eleven –
The air was thick with the faintly sulfurous breath of the fog machine, and the strobes played on it like lightning. Bodies moved sinuously and incessantly, eyes and jewelry flashing in the dark.
Mello hailed the barkeep with one languid sweep of a gloved hand. He pushed an overgenerous bill and a small white foam disk across the counter, made sure his requisite servant was paying rapt attention, and pointed a straight, slender finger at the young man down the bar, who had just sent his cadre of female companions into peals of laughter drowned out by the pounding music and the shouted conversation trying to cut through it.
"Get him one more of whatever the hell he's drinking," Mello instructed. "So long as you stick this—" He laid a fingertip meaningfully on the little white disk, the diameter of which measured about an inch. "—on the bottom of his glass."
Intrigued now, the bartender leaned forward to examine it, but his interest flagged when he got a good look at what was written there. It didn't mean anything. Not to him.
"You're the boss," he conceded with a slight shrug, pocketing the cash and setting the momentary curiosity in his palm. "Should I tell him who sent it?"
Mello smiled a smile entirely devoid of anything resembling joy. "He'll know."
The barkeep nodded his assent, and Mello turned and melted into the pulsing crowd.
Thus it was that, from the safety of the shadow, at one of the glinting steel tables huddling in a secluded corner of the room, his heavy boots resting on the tabletop and his arms folded across his chest, Mello watched the bartender slide a third shot of vodka to Matt. The glass sparked as if imbued with life, animated suddenly by the strobe lights and then fleetingly obscured by the smoke. Matt looked around for a culprit, found none, laughed at the bartender's exaggeratedly enigmatic expression, and made a comment that set the girls to giggling.
Still grinning at his success, Matt snatched up the shot glass, cradled it in deft fingers, raised it to his companions, and threw it back effortlessly.
Then he opened his eyes, saw the single word pinned by condensation to the bottom of the glass, and choked.
Matt managed to down his booze and laugh it off, the latter not before he'd glanced desperately around, scanning the room for the only person who could be responsible. Mello didn't move. He was invisible in the dark of this pit. Just like he wanted.
Matt had always been blessed with a gift for acting, but even if he hadn't exercised it now, his friends, exquisite bimbos that they were, likely wouldn't have noticed the tense tilt of his shoulders if it had sidled up and broken their noses with a baseball bat.
Mello could have gone for breaking some noses with sports equipment right about now. For the hell of it.
Matt excused himself a few minutes later, slipped through the seething masses like oil on water, and disappeared beyond the black beaded curtain that led to the restrooms.
White light danced on black leather as Mello unwrapped the end of the bar of chocolate lying innocently on the table. He took a bite, savored it, and swallowed. Then he set off after his prey.
The curtain rattled aside, a mockery of machinegun fire, strands of beads swinging wildly. Mello paused in front of the appropriate door.
"You're prob'ly not supposed to smoke in here," a concerned citizen was announcing within.
Matt's voice was tight. "I disabled the smoke detector."
A simple "Fuck you" would have sufficed, but that wasn't Matt's style.
The bewildered-looking patron emerged, caught sight of Mello, and promptly looked more bewildered still.
Mello pushed the door open and stepped in.
Matt's trademark goggles hung limply around his neck, and he clung to the cigarette plugged into his mouth as if it might anchor him.
"Hello, Matt," Mello said.
"Mello," Matt gritted out.
"Hello, Mello, my good fellow. Care for some Jell-O?"
The voice was bright, clear, faintly gleeful, and undeniably Matt's. The Matt of not-too-distant memory.
"Fancy meeting you here," Mello remarked, trying not to smirk.
Something in Matt snapped, the breakage registering as a darkening of his eyes, and he jerked the cigarette out from between his lips and moved forward, leaving Mello to back up against the wall, where one of those obnoxious hand dryers that never got the job done nudged a corner insistently into the small of his back. Eyes narrowed almost to slits, Matt exhaled cigarette smoke purposefully into Mello's face, the biting tang of it tainting the ambrosial chocolate taste that lingered on his tongue.
"You let this," Matt snarled, thrusting a now soggy foam disk into Mello's field of vision, "be seen in a public place. Better still, you facilitated its being seen."
Mello could smell the bitterness of the alcohol now as well, but all he could see was Matt's eyes—eyes that were dark, blue, and suddenly so cold that the fragile smoke winding between him and those frigid eyes might have been his breath misting instead of the pungent product of a cheap cigarette.
"It worked, didn't it?" he inquired idly. Strands of auburn hair that curved almost to a cheekbone battled thick black lashes for his attention. "And it's not like anyone would think it was your name, Postal Service."
Something else in Matt bent and broke, the fragments rearing shattered heads. This was it. This was where the game got good. A hefty leather glove clenched around Mello's shoulder, and Matt shoved him none-too-gently against the wall, the darkness that clouded those eyes unforgiving, unrepentant, and complete.
"What the hell are you doing here, Mello?" he hissed.
"Hello, Mello. Can you tell-o that I love to play the cello?"
The eyes again—royal blue. An unlikely color, an implausible shade. The ocean paled, the sky looked laughable, and new denim was downright insulting.
"Preferably," Mello said, "you."
The eyes widened. They filled his world. They were his world.
That was what the hell he was doing here.
Two leather-clothed hands closed around his throat, slamming him against the wall, pressing too hard against his esophagus, and he couldn't breathe—
"Hilarious," Matt sneered. "About as hilarious as you up and leaving without so much as a 'See ya.'"
Mello was scrabbling against Matt's wrists by now, largely instinctively, but Matt just drew him forward and then reintroduced him to the wall, harder this time, and something started buzzing in his ears. High above them wires dangled from the disemboweled smoke detector, and stars began to burst on yawning black fields, but all he wanted to see was those eyes—
"Matt," he whispered, sounding weak and reedy even to his own ears. "Matty-Matt. Contrary t—" He gasped in enough oxygen to finish. "…t-to popular belief, Matterial things… are all that Matters."
Silence unfurled, marred at the hazy edges of hearing by the ambient throbbing of the music on the dance floor, muffled as it was by the walls. Matt let go, and Mello leaned on the much-maligned hand dryer, panting.
Mello didn't have more than three and a half seconds to recover before Matt pushed him against the wall again, this time to kiss him with an almost feral hunger. With a need.
Ignoring the whimpering of the bruises on his cranium as they visited with their friend the wall, Mello seized Matt's collar and dragged him greedily closer.
"Can I sleep with you? You'd make a good Mattress."
"I… What's your favorite color?"
Mello fumbled to peel off his gloves, and his elbow collided with the soap dispenser. He didn't care; another bruise was another bruise; they told stories, and then they faded inconspicuously away and were gone. What he cared about was ditching his goddamn gloves.
One finally conceded and tumbled down the side of the sink to rest, half-inverted and wholly forlorn, over the drain.
"Wh—" Matt mumbled.
"Shut up," Mello ordered. Slowly and deliberately, he raised his bare hand and touched a fingertip to Matt's eyebrow. He traced its curve and followed the line downward, along Matt's jaw, around his chin, and up again to the opposite cheek. He considered, and then he brushed a section of glimmering hair behind Matt's ear.
Then he dove again.
When the conversation recommenced the better part of a minute later, Mello was halfway into the sink. He glanced down and saw that the end of Matt's abandoned cigarette was still halfheartedly smoldering.
"You're going to burn the whole fucking building down!" he scolded, casting around for a moment to orient and right himself before crushing the offending article under his heel.
Unmoved, Matt glanced at the red embers skittering away from the cataclysm that had killed their brothers. Then he leaned in again, and Mello forgot all about buildings on fire.
He forgot about everything, and that was the wonder and the glory of it.
"You know," Matt murmured, his breath hot and moist against Mello's ear, "you have been a tremendous bastard about the whole thing. How long's it been since I saw head or tail of you?"
"Two years," Mello responded. "I'll buy you flowers. And some chocolate."
Matt scoffed, sending Mello's hair dancing. "We both know you'd eat it all."
Mello didn't even dignify that with a response.
Or at least not a verbal one.
He drew back sooner than he would have liked, and pushing Matt gently away, ignoring the tender hands and the seeking mouth and the eager eyes, almost proved impossible.
"Matt," he said, grounding himself with the word and reeling his better judgment back in before it fled for good, "I need your contact information, and I need you to keep a watch on some things for me."
Matt stopped, withdrew his hand from where it had settled on Mello's waist, and frowned, his eyes keen now—sharp. Edged like cut gemstones. "Why?"
Mello fished his glove out of the sink basin and jammed it into his belt. He was partial to this pair. "Because a great deal of shit is about to hit a monolithic fan," he answered. "And if I die, I don't want the only person who knows the difference to be Near."
The corners of Matt's lips quirked faintly despite the stirring worry in his eyes. "But he'd be so happy."
Mello scowled. "Whose side are you on?"
Matt grinned. "As always," he replied, "mine." Bemusedly he glanced at the door, contemplated the tangled remains of the smoke detector, and scrounged a cigarette and his silver lighter out of a pocket. He tucked the former between his lips and flicked the latter into life.
"It's faster if you use a razor," Mello noted dryly.
"I'm not in a rush," Matt responded blithely around his cancer stick. It swooped away from the flame as his lips moved. "Though I hear untimely death is lovely this time of year."
Mello flinched and hated himself for it.
"Do you have a place in the city?" Matt asked in the tone of one inquiring about the weather—with a tantalizing hint of the whether or not.
"Yeah," Mello admitted, "but it's infested."
Matt blew out a delicate stream of silver smoke, an eyebrow rising. "Oh?" Mello had forgotten that Matt knew better than to settle with the obvious assumption. "What with?"
"The mob," Mello sighed, knowing full well that lying would merely postpone the inevitable.
Exasperation in the very set of his fingers, Matt pinched the bridge of his nose. "Mello—"
"I know it's not ideal," Mello interrupted, "but they've taken to me. They know I'm smarter than they are, and they've accepted that I'll be useful to them as long as they make sure they're useful to me."
Matt wrinkled his nose, and in the work of that single moment, in the absurd contrast of the childish expression and the angle of the cigarette, Mello fell in love with the man in front of him all over again.
"Why can't you just have roaches like normal people?" Matt wanted to know.
"I'm not a normal person," Mello countered, quite conscious of the vague ludicrousness of the understatement. "Do you have a place?"
With the usual unsettling shrewdness, Matt looked at him for a few seconds, waiting to speak until the moment just before Mello was reduced to fidgeting like a schoolchild in geometry. Complements, supplements, and proofs, right?
"You do realize that the girls—" Matt jerked his head in the general direction of the bar. "—are going to be obscenely jealous."
Mello was unimpressed. The picture of perfect innocence, he suggested, "Then maybe they should try looking good in these pants."
Matt laughed, and as the sound rang, pure and irrepressible, off of the close walls, Mello knew that somehow, some way, things were going to work out all right.
If Mail Jeevas was laughing with him again, they had to.